Sep 1, 2010

Ask a Curator Day questions

Answering big curatorial questions in 140 characters is practically impossible! Our official Twitter answers are edited down, but here are the original versions from our curators, Blake Milteer (Museum Director & Curator of American Art) and Tariana Navas-Nieves (Curator of Hispanic and Native American Art).

Q. @Museodata: @FineArtsCenter AskACurator: What is the most difficult challenge for a curator? How do new technologies influence the curatorship task?
Blake: Balancing presentation of the fullest range of art concepts, styles, media, etc. with audience desires and expectations. New technologies expand possibilities for the ways art itself communicates and for curatorial interpretation of the art.

Q. @museumuse: Good morning curators! What are the most difficult objects for your to conserve? #askacurator
Tariana: I would say bultos & retablos since there is a delicate balance between restoring paint loss and allowing the natural aging of the piece.

Q. SaintJohnsBible: #askacurator During recent recession did museums cut back on outside exhibits, pull from existing collections? What's happening now?
Blake: We have certainly cut back on packaged travelling shows, but we continue to exhibit local and international artists as we focus on originating our own exhibitions and scholarship.

Q. papier_et_encre: Interested to know if the curators have a favourite piece, or does it change with each new exhibition? #askacurator
Blake: I can never pick just one, but three that I keep coming back to at the Fine Arts Center are Richard Diebenkorn’s Urbana #4, 1953, Arthur Dove’s Foghorns, 1929, Marisol’s John Wayne, 1963, and Floyd Tunson’s Untitled #108, 2003.

Tariana: I can’t say I have a favorite piece since that would be like choosing which of your children you love more, but Cuban artist Luis Cruz Azaceta’s Involuntary Kamikaze and Venezuelan Marisol’s John Wayne are definitively on my list.

Q.@rikang: if i am a tourist and i have only 1 hour to spend, what collection or exhibit would you recommend me to see in person? #askacurator
Tariana: The exhibit of Mexican printmaker Leopoldo Méndez, which features works dealing with powerful social themes, and a special show devoted to the striking bronze sculptures of famous sculptor Gib Singleton…the cross that tops the crosier of the late John Paul II and is now carried by Pope Benedict XVI was created by Singleton.

Q. papier_et_encre :If you have an idea for an exhibition, what's the best way to pitch it? #askacurator
Blake: Send a written proposal with images.

Q. papier_et_encre :What path lead you to your current curator role? #askacurator
Blake: Different paths, but for me: Bachelors degree in studio art, Masters in art history/museum studies, museum intern, curatorial assistant, full curator.

Tariana: In my case, BA in Art History, Museum Assistant, MA in Art History, Gallery curator, Museum Curator, Consulting Curator, Private Collection curator, now back to Museum Curator.

Q. OCDSS: Would artists would be better off if they abstained from exhibiting at the start of their careers, focusing only on making art? #askcurators
Tariana: I would say no; the art world is so competitive and challenging that if there is the opportunity to exhibit early on, they should definitively grab it. Ideally, exhibiting and making art would go hand in hand.

Blake: Entirely depends on the artist’s individual processes, motivations, and goals. As a young exhibiting artist (long ago) I found it important, while making the work, to think about how it would communicate through exhibition. For me, it felt like a healthy part of my process to think about ways (and act on them when I could) to get my work out into the world.

Q. OCDSS: @FineArtsCenter Then why is the wait-to-exhibit meme so prevalent? (although in fairness maybe that's one for #askcritics ) #askcurators
Tariana: I don’t see any advantage to waiting. Exhibiting the work will give the artist the opportunity to receive feedback, recognition of course and, it will build their professional career. Most artists want to be able to make a living doing what they are meant to do, and if the work is not exhibited it would be extremely difficult.

Q. swoods20: Re-posing the question w/ the new hashtag: what exhibitions/projecs are you most looking forward to working on? Open to anyone #askcurators
Tariana: The first retrospective exhibition of contemporary artist Emilio Lobato. Stunning and thought-provoking work.

Blake: Fine Arts Center’s 75th Anniversary exhibitions (spring 2011) and Floyd Tunson: Son of Pop (Spring 2012)

Q. @marilysedionne: Which new trends / artists do you find inspiring at the moment? #askcurators
Blake: There are immense new places to be explored in all media, but I am particularly drawn to new work being done in video and computer-based media. We put together an exhibition last spring called Conflict|Resolution with powerful works by Bill Viola, Harrell Fletcher, Walid Raad, Lorna Simpson, and Carlos Aguirre. At the moment we have organized an exhibition of William Kentridge’s drawings and films.

Q. @Marplesmarbles: #askcurators If money no object, what would you buy for your museum?
Blake: A James Turrell Skyspace, a Kiki Smith sculpture, an Alexander Calder piece, some Stieglitz photographs, a Louise Bourgeois sculpture, a complete portfolio of Robert Frank’s The Americans, and Thomas Moran Mountain of the Holy Cross painting. I could keep going.

Q. @atomicelroy: @FineArtsCenter are Curators necessary any more?
Blake: Yes. There are aspects of aesthetics, connoisseurship, and scholarship practiced by curators that contribute immensely to public discourse around art. That said, there are growing examples of art that originates in the public realm, on the internet, etc. for which curatorial practice may be irrelevant.

Q. @aaronjakos: @FineArtsCenter As a curator, you are foremost a: Historian? Critic? Advocate? Theorist? Conductor? Cheerleader? #askcurators
Blake: Yes. I would add: Aesthete, Connoisseur, Diplomat, Teacher, and Weather Forecaster. All constitute the best job in the world.

Tariana: All of the above; and you forgot storyteller.

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